Comparative Literature Courses - Fall 2020

Comparative Literature Courses - Fall 2020

All Fall 2020 courses in Comparative Literature will be held REMOTELY (online).

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 001—Major Works of the Ancient World 

Instructor: Leonardo Giorgetti

Epic and the Sacred
What is the nature of the sacred? In which ways do deities preside over human life? To what extent can they shape the course of individual existence as well as that of the entire human history? This course surveys some of the most canonical works of ancient literature, from the Iraqi-Sumerian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 BCE), Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, to the Hebrew Bible, the Gospel of Mark, and Augustine’s Confessions (IV cent. CE). These books, which originate from the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean traditions, have inspired literature on every continent as now belong to a world republic of letters; in fact, each of them is universally considered a literary classic, i.e. a work which “has never exhausted all it has to say to his readers” (according to Italo Calvino’s felicitous definition). While exploring the historical-cultural context of these “major books,” we will read them critically from a comparative, transnational perspective that would elucidate the ways these texts adapt and reformulate relevant themes and motifs of world epic literature, such as the hero’s journey and the formation of individual identity in response to political and moral norms, with an emphasis on the fluid relationship between human life and the divine, in order to explore the mystery (both awe-inspiring and fascinating) that is quintessential to every religious experience.


COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 2: From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

Instructor: Sean Stewart Sell

This class will examine stories that present and perhaps helped shape collective cultures and cosmologies in various parts of the world. While the COM 2 course is framed chronologically by the European terms “Fall of Rome” and “Enlightenment,” the study of world literature must include the world beyond Europe and the so-called “West.” Trade and travel were expanding during this time, with the concomitant and inevitable trade in stories and ideas. We will examine narratives that express important values of different cultures, narratives which may also raise questions and concerns about the cultures they come from. Of particular interest will be beliefs about life, death, and what may come after.

Readings will be available on Canvas – students will not have to purchase anything.


COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 3: Major Works of the Modern World

Instructor: Maureen Burdock

War and Protest

This course explores themes of war and protest (to war, racism, fascism, and colonialism) in the modern world (circa 1900 through just after the Second World War) in Europe and the Americas.  


COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 4: Major Works of the Contemporary World

Instructor: Amy Riddle

While Young Adult (YA) fiction is usually marketed at a younger audience, most readers are adults, drawn to coming-of-age stories that explore themes including romance, friendship, race, and identity. Our class will focus on this popular genre with an emphasis on the political elements of the story--in particular how these works depict contemporary social problems and imagine alternative social organizations.  Many of the works we will read have African authors and are partially set in the African continent.  One thing that these works have in common are elements of the supernatural/horror genre.  We will explore how this genre relates to the social themes of the novels.  


Amy Riddle

CRN 26784; TR 9-10:20A

This class will focus on how world cinema presents social problems related to race, gender, class and the climate crisis.  Of particular interest will be the horror/supernatural genre.  We will examine works set in Senegal, Nigeria (Nollywood), Algeria, US America, South Africa, Japan, England, Mexico and Korea.  There will be weekly readings and secondary critical materials provided in Canvas.  

Prerequisite: Upper division standing Lecture/Discussion—3 hour(s); Film Viewing—3 hour(s).Prerequisite(s): Completion of Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR), upper division standing, or consent of instructor.  May be repeated up to 3 Time(s) when topic differs.

GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, Visual Literacy, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture/Discussion - 3 hours; Film Viewing - 3 hours.



Michiko Suzuki

CRN 26785; TR 1:40-3:00P; W 5:10-8:00P (Film Viewing)

This lecture/discussion class is an introduction to Japanese film from the early silent films to contemporary cinema. While exploring the history of Japanese film and its social and cultural contexts, we examine works by important directors (such as Kurosawa and Ozu), genres (such as avant-garde film and samurai film), themes and techniques. We will also use secondary critical materials on Japanese film and history. Particular areas of focus include gender, war, memory, censorship, visuality and narrative.

Lectures, readings and discussions will be in English. Films have English subtitles. No previous knowledge of Japanese language or culture is required.



COMPARATIVE LITERATURE 142. Critical Reading & Analysis
Michael Subialka

“The Poetics of Awakening: Eliot, Dante, and the Gita

COM 142 Critical Reading and Analysis

Fall 2020, T Th 10:30-11:50, CRN 53109 Remote Instruction

Expanded Course Description:

How can we express the inexpressible – epiphanic insights or realizations that penetrate beyond the intelligible surface of things? Is there a particular poetic form that is suited to expressing experiences of awakening or of higher or different consciousness? If we are aiming to become mindful, is there a role that art in general and poetry in particular might play in the cultivation of this consciousness? These questions will motivate our inquiry in this concentrated course on critical reading and analysis. We will tackle them by examining a key test case, TS Eliot’s final collection of poems, Four Quartets, which might be said to elaborate and thematize a poetics of awakened consciousness in part by interfacing with two earlier religious or spiritual poems, the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita and Dante’s Divine Comedy. All three texts are concerned with the problem of what it means to represent the ineffable, a vision of existence or the cosmos that exceeds the bounds of human comprehension and the limits of human expression. We will engage in a close reading of Eliot’s four poems, the Gita, and the four final cantos of Dante’s Comedy to consider how poetry and artistic form attempt to grapple with the impossible in a project spanning cultures, languages, and millennia.

Required Course Books:

The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. Trans. Barbara Stoler Miller. New York: Bantam Classic, 1986: (available as paperback and e-book).

Eliot, T.S. Four Quartets. New York: Harcourt, 1971: (available as paperback and e-book).

Recommended Course Books:

The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata. Ed. and trans. J. A. B. Van Buitenen. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981: (available as paperback and e-book).

Narayan, R. K. The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013: (available as paperback and e-book).

Gail Finney

CRN 53498; TR 12:10-1:30P / Email for zoom meeting.

Studies international types of the novel from Roman antiquity through the twentieth century: the picaresque novel, the epistolary novel, the realist novel, the women’s novel, the Bildungsroman, and the magical realist novel.

Texts include the following:

Apuleius, The Golden Ass (late 2nd century A.D.)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther (1774)
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)
Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)


Comparative Literature 210: Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts
Michael Subialka

CRN 26821; R 2:10-5:00PM

This graduate seminar will focus on the rich intersection of literature, philosophy, and the arts (potentially including performance, music, and the visual arts, depending on students’ interests). Comparative literature as a field has long been a space where literary production and philosophical theory overlap in fruitful ways, and in recent years there has been growing attention to the specific intersection of (literary or artistic) form and (philosophical) argument coming from a number of disciplines. The seminar will begin by articulating some key theoretical approaches to this intersection, foregrounding work by contemporary scholars who ask what it means to think through (literary or artistic) form and how attention to that form changes our understanding of philosophical thought. The bulk of the course will then consider examples of philosphical texts that work in and through literary form to reflect on the aesthetic, like Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, and various types of literary-philosophical hybrid texts by authors such as Jean-Paul Sarte, Luigi Pirandello, Iris Murdoch, Zhuangzi, and the Zen classic The Gateless Gate. These readings will be supplemented by philosophical and theoretical texts to help us dig into our overarching question: how does literary or artistic form reshape the horizons (or possibilty) of philosophical inquiry?